The use of cryotherapy or icing in the management of acute injuries has been widely promoted, accepted and practiced. It is even part of the old, easy formula RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) coined by Dr. Gabe Mirkin in the 1970s. The reduction of pain, swelling and improved function or return to participation have been promised through the use of this modality. However, clinical studies regarding its effectiveness are inconclusive and inconsistent at best. Although some studies indicate that icing may be effective in reducing pain, in some cases, excessive cooling may be damaging to tissues and may hasten return to participation. Elevation, support, and controlled movements of affected area may prove more beneficial. But, if significant pain, swelling, bruising and the inability to move or weight bear persist, it is advisable to seek medical attention to rule serious pathology.
Paula Moreira, B.Sc., BMR.PT., MCISc.,
Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Physiotherapy